Vulnerability is the birth place of all we hunger for
joy creativity faith and love
and there is none of this without risking failure
Be open enough to take the risk to fail.
Ever since beginning this breast cancer journey I have been more and more aware of the degree of pain and suffering of my life, I notice also that a lot of my focus at times is on the pain and suffering. It seemed from adolescence onward so many difficult experiences transpired, things that isolated me and took me away from others that it was almost as if I was captured by the darkness. I now see however I wish to reach for light, for joy, for happiness but could it be that not being too familiar with these things at times I get stuck in a darkness rut?
Lately I am also realising that because my own relationship with my mother was not easy (there were already many hurts in place by adolescence) my ability to connect deeply with girlfriends was damaged to a degree. I found it difficult to reach out and trust. To open my heart to connection again. I can see all of this now in hindsight and because of the amount of work I have done in therapy. There were always reasons for what happened and life was really a healing journey in which pain would be a very powerful teacher.
In early recovery from addiction I was already very interested in astrology and archetypes, those eternal patterns of human psychological process, understanding and symbology, myths and stories which give meaning to the profound passages we humans go through on the soul’s journey.
When I came across Roger Woodger’s book on the Goddess archetypes and read about Persephone who in astrology and mythology is the feminine aspect of the archetype and planet Pluto I became aware of the underworld themes of my own life reflected in her story. I became aware that I was a Persephone woman myself.
Persephone is a goddess who lived in the underworld, she has a strong connection to the underground psyche, the great unconscious both personal and collective. She underwent painful profound passages of loss and stripping away which marked her for this kind of knowing of cycles of birth, loss, death and transformation. Persephone women are no strangers to suffering, the may have gone through abuse which leads them to become addicts. They may have had to relegate huge parts of themselves to the Underground. They may not have been fully accepted by family or culture and this may have sent them out on a journey where they had to be alone and in knowing aloneness they came to know their own soul well and through this understanding of human pain and vulnerability they end up developing insight into others too.
As I am writing this it has occurred to me that understanding and acceptance of this life journey, painful as it can be at times enriches us. I also means we can be more accepting of our need for alone time to reconnect with the self and don’t have to struggle as hard to be liked or be one of the crowd.
As a young person feeling different this was not how I felt. I longed to belong to the crowd, to be attractive, easy to get along with and popular but now I see that if I had been these things I would not have been totally me. Also due to my own negative self concept I may have also judged myself to be less liked or loved than circumstances are now revealing to me that I am. I also misunderstood that standing on the sidelines and observing did not necessarily mean I was disconnected, in a way I was more connected to insights and impressions.
My recent hospital stay has brought up for me so many aspects of my damaged past. The scary near death motor crash of 1979, the three months of hospitalisation pinned to a bed where I could not leave and my range of motion was restricted. The months of isolation from friends and school, my tentative return and then very close to the coming out of hospital my sister’s cerebral bleed which over the next two years fractured our family relationships and in four years led to my father’s death. My trip over to the other side of the world where more difficult relationships ensued as I struggled to live and connect. The four painful abandonments by partners who in leaving blamed me, after treating me cruelly. My loss of belief in myself and descent into addiction and then my painful realisation that I needed to enter recovery. The attempt to turn my life around over the next 10 years, the ending of my marriage, entry into a narcissistic relationship and two other accidents. My entry into therapy and struggle to find the right help. My sister’s suicide attempt, mother’s illness following major surgery, my older sister’s death and my recent diagnosis with breast cancer. Phew, that is an enormous amount of suffering and difficulty.
As I write all of this down today I am filled with awe in a way that something in me that is strong has survived and lived through all of this and today I am reminded too that in time all of these conditions passed. I do believe that despite the dark I have known I can still find the light on many days. Indeed it seems the reward for being in the dark and passing through painful feelings or allowing them to pass through and transform me I find the light. And this is one of the functions of Persephone/Pluto. We are transformed by opening up to vulnerability and pain and allowing ourselves to be transformed by the darkness which can scare others.
Deep in my soul I know that due to my own Pluto Moon in true mythological Plutonian fashion I am the one whose path has led into the burning flames many times and that after time I do come out transformed, even if black at times and covered in soot and dismissed, disregarded and rejected by those who never knew the full extent of my journey. And in this I am most certainly not alone as there are so many of you out there enduring your own dark passages and living to tell the tale, with learnings to speak of and share. I read about all of your journeys here. It truly is a long and winding road.
Many times over the past few days in hospital the words of that Beatles song have come to me:
Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried
But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
I am still walking the road, even if at the moment following my time in hospital I am resting more. In some miraculous way in my hour of greatest need people I have felt abandoned by or who did not understand have showed up to support me. I don’t know if even a year ago I could have opened my heart to allow in this support and love of me in. I don’t know if I would have felt worthy enough or had healed enough of my own co-dependence.
A few years ago I could not have reached out and expressed my sadness and need at not receiving help, nor given people a chance to know how I was truly feeling. Its been scary at times to unmask this vulnerability and need and to tell the truth of my story.
I lately often get told by one family member that I am lucky but the truth is I think I have expressed myself more than this person and asked for help. I have shown that I am vulnerable in a way they have not and it feels a bit invalidating to be told I am lucky when in fact I have taken steps even on the darkest days to reach in some way for the light.
Through blogging, through trips to the park with my dog, through making phone calls to connect with others by life has expanded a little more towards happiness and joy. By leaving my prison of isolation and pain which at times seemed too large and by taking risks to be truthful and express the dark even though my fear was I would be judged and rejected I have found support and love.
My Leo North Node lesson in any case is all about this. Its about developing a voice and a will and a power of self expression that is assertive rather than aggressive. When I started my recent chiropractic treatment which involves breathing and connecting into the navel, heart and throat centres it was my throat centre that was still more blocked than the other two. I was taught to connect to my gut and tapping it a few times to “speak up”. My mother’s generation’s pain (1920-1930) was silenced. They could not speak up. They had to endure. Later generations are turning this around. Deep inside me there was so much pain it was hard to vocalise or ‘cough up’.
The reward over the last few weeks for opening up my throat and asking and expressing has been love. I have never felt more surrounded with love and for this I feel so grateful.
At times when I blog I still criticise and judge my own darkness. When I publish some raw pieces and I don’t get many likes part of me feels I should change my expression, not be so raw. But I know that this would not be right because I need to be authentic and my value does not rest on anyone else’s opinion. Learning and living that truth is part of co-dependence recovery.
I feel the journey that we take into the dark is the journey to rescue ourselves. In the end no one else can do it. We have to face the fear of the dark and embrace it anyway and we have to be honest, even if our vision is dark and challenges other people. They have a right to their vision, we have a right to ours. Once we take self responsibility others seem to be more willing to show up. At least that is my experience.
Opening up and asking has meant having to feel a lot of fear. One of my deepest fears has been that if I asked for help I would be overpowered. I now know that was an old fear. I have the boundaries to say something now if my boundaries are transgressed.
In a moment of synchronicity while writing this I checked my Reader in WordPress and following a shame link came across the Soul Sunday video interviews between Oprah Winfrey and shame researcher Brene Brown. In one video Brene spoke about our cultures fear of vulnerability and the dark she also spoke about how it is the birthplace of all that we hunger for. Some of her words headlined this piece I was writing this afternoon.
Today after four or so dark days the light is returning for me. It feels as though Persephone is coming up for air on one of her upper world visits just in time for the Pisces New Moon tomorrow that falls not very far away from opposition with my natal Pluto in the first house. So I guess this blog is right on time. And the day ends with me feeling so much stronger and lighter than I was this time yesterday, aware of so much more, grateful too for so much.